Pre-Altitude Serum Ferritin Levels and Daily Oral Iron Supplement Dose Mediate Iron Parameter and Hemoglobin Mass Responses to Altitude Exposure

Andrew Govus, Laura GARVICAN, Chris Abbiss, Peter Peeling, Christopher Gore

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    Purpose To investigate the influence of daily oral iron supplementation on changes in hemoglobin mass (Hb mass) and iron parameters after 2-4 weeks of moderate altitude exposure. Methods Hematological data collected from 178 athletes (98 males, 80 females) exposed to moderate altitude (1,350-3,000 m) were analysed using linear regression to determine how altitude exposure combined with oral iron supplementation influenced Hb mass, total iron incorporation (TII) and blood iron parameters [ferritin and transferrin saturation (TSAT)]. Results Altitude exposure (mean ± s: 21 ± 3 days) increased Hb mass by 1.1% [-0.4, 2.6], 3.3% [1.7, 4.8], and 4.0% [2.0, 6.1] from pre-altitude levels in athletes who ingested nil, 105 mg and 210 mg respectively, of oral iron supplement daily. Serum ferritin levels decreased by -33.2% [-46.9, -15.9] and 13.8% [-32.2, 9.7] from pre-altitude levels in athletes who supplemented with nil and 105 mg of oral iron supplement daily, but increased by 36.8%[1.3, 84.8] in athletes supplemented with 210 mg of oral iron daily. Finally, athletes who ingested either 105 mg or 210 mg of oral iron supplement daily had a greater TII compared with non-supplemented athletes (0 versus 105 mg: effect size (d) = -1.88 [-2.56, -1.17]; 0 versus 210 mg: effect size (d) = -2.87 [-3.88, -1.66]). Conclusion Oral iron supplementation during 2-4 weeks of moderate altitude exposure may enhance Hb mass production and assist the maintenance of iron balance in some athletes with low pre-altitude iron stores.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0135120
    Pages (from-to)1-11
    Number of pages11
    JournalPLoS One
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2015


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